Birth of a Novel

Photo provided by Armin Hanisch and stock.xchng

Photo provided by Armin Hanisch and stock.xchng

Have you ever heard someone say, “And a book was born”?

I think that statement is misleading. Birthing a novel is easy, raising it to hold its own among other books on the shelves is far from it.

I’m often affronted on behalf of independent authors because they are frequently referred to as the black sheep of the publishing world. However, sometimes I can understand why. I don’t say that lightly. I know how hard authors work on their books and the majority of them deserve better than they get from the publishing industry.

That being said, it takes more than just birthing a novel. You wouldn’t send a newborn baby into to the world to fend for itself and you shouldn’t introduce your book to the world before it’s ready either. I made the mistake of self-publishing a few of my short stories before they were ready. In my mind, I had done all I could. In hindsight, I was seriously wrong. So, what should we do to prepare our babies for the world?

Photo provided by tpmatt and stock.xchng

Photo provided by tpmatt and stock.xchng

I’m no expert, but here are a few things that probably should be done before seeking representation or self-publishing.

  • Revise with flexibility. Just because you have the story on the page doesn’t mean it’s complete. Coax the nuances from the characters and plot.
  • Ruthlessly Edit. That scene you love so dearly may need to be deleted. Keep an open mind and make sure every scene has a purpose.
  • Don’t rely on spell-check! If that needs explaining you should probably get a professional editor.
  • When you think it’s ready, go over it again. Make sure you are showing not telling, that point of view and tense are consistent and you’ve wrapped up any loose ends. This is where another pair of eyes is invaluable. We are so close to our work that sometimes we miss things that are obvious to others.

Yes, you’ve given birth to a novel. The labor may have even been painful, but the real work is ahead of you. Raise your novel from infancy to adult and don’t give up when you hit the teenage stage, when it rebels and you can’t seem to get your point across.

Don’t get in a hurry to push your baby out the door and don’t let it rush you either.